FBI accused of hacking computers to track Child Porn Website users

FBI accused of hacking computers to track Child Porn Website users

The FBI was accused by few of hacking the personal computers of more than a thousand people in an operation to track and apprehend users who visited and used a child pornography website on the dark web.

The FBI conducted an investigative operation to identify and subsequently apprehend users who frequented one of the largest known child pornography websites on the dark web. Over a year ago, the FBI had gained access to the website Playpen, which was the largest known hub for sharing child pornography on the dark web. They then controlled the website and used hacking methods to track and identify people who used the website and had an account on it.

Many illegal activities are carried out on the dark web and authorities are always on the lookout to put a stop to them. The dark web is a part of the internet that is unreachable through normal web browsers and requires The Onion Router, or Tor browser, as well as other software to access it. The use of Tor makes it difficult for anyone’s identity and location to be revealed.

This is because it connects a user to his or her desired website through an elaborate network of relay computers, making it impossible for authorities to trace a user from the path. However, the FBI exploited a vulnerability in Tor to triangulate on a user’s location using their IP and MAC addresses. Those with un-updated versions of Tor fell prey to the FBI’s trap.

In order to track users, the FBI used a hacking tool called NIT, or network investigative technique. This was done after the authorities seized the North Carolina server of Playpen and then used the website as a front for capturing people who had an account on the website. The use of NIT was made possible due to people using un-updated versions of Tor which enabled the FBI to identify users. More than 1500 computers were hacked in this operation.

Although the FBI has enough ground to file powerful cases against the accused individuals, American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist Christopher Soghoian says that the use of hacking tools to hack the computers of over a thousand people is unprecedented.

He said that it was quite astounding that the authorities hacked the computers of more than a thousand users on the basis of a single warrant. The FBI as well as the Eastern District of Virginia magistrate, responsible for giving the FBI the go head to use NIT, did not respond to a request for commenting on the case.

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